|Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas,
runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi
produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this
stunning infrared portrait
from the WISE spacecraft.
In the false-color view, bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more
massive than the Sun, lies near the center of the frame, moving
toward the top at 24 kilometers per second.
Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty
material and shaping the curved shock front.
Around it are clouds of relatively undisturbed material.
What set this star in motion?
Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a
binary star system, its
companion star was more massive and hence
When the companion
as a supernova catastrophically losing mass,
Zeta Oph was flung out of the system.
About 460 light-years away, Zeta Oph is 65,000 times more
luminous than the Sun and would be one of the brighter stars
in the sky if it weren't surrounded by obscuring dust.
image spans about 1.5 degrees or 12 light-years
at the estimated distance of